Thanksgiving Tips, Techniques & Recipes

Let the Countdown Begin

The countdown to Thanksgiving is upon us and we are here to help with ideas, recipes, techniques and videos or anyway we can!  Check back for daily updates until the big turkey day arrives.  Gobble gobble!!! Listen in to our latest podcast episode dedicated to “Thanksgiving Turkey”

2 Days: It’s time to talk about roasting your turkey. Take it out of the refrigerator an hour before cooking and pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Cook for 30-40 minutes to add some nice color to the turkey then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees to finish cooking until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees in the thigh. Don’t forget to stuff your turkey with aromatics like citrus and herbs to add flavor. If you are pressed for time you can use your kitchen shears to cut the backbone out of the turkey and lay it flat in the oven to speed up the cooking.

3 Days: No matter what you do to cook that perfectly moist turkey, you still need the gravy.  They just go hand in hand together.  You must have it. The one piece of advice that I always give when making your gravy is to save what you have from your turkey.  The giblets and the fat and juices that cook out of the bird when roasting are tremendous helpers in bringing big flavor to your meal.  Save those three things and use them for a delicious turkey gravy.  Here is a recipe for our giblet gravy.

4 Days: It’s brine time! If you haven’t brined your turkey before, why not give it a try this Thanksgiving. We also talked about it in our podcast this last week as well.  Try this recipe for brined turkey.  Also try brining your turkey a day earlier and then leaving it uncovered in your refrigerator in a pan overnight to dry out and give you a crisper skin when you roast it. I think you will see a tremendous improvement in your bird!

5 Days: Green bean casserole is one of the staples of your holiday meal but the problem is most recipes use condensed soup as the base.  Try this recipe for green bean casserole made entirely from scratch instead of the processed version.

Roasted root veg6 Days: Roasted vegetables are a true sign of fall and a fairly simple dish to make for Thanksgiving.  It takes very little effort and can bring some big flavor to the table.  Root vegetables are my go to of choice to pair with our turkey.  Cut all of your vegetables the same size, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and some minced fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme.  Spread out evenly on a sheet tray and roast at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until they start to develop a little color and are just tender. Roasted root vegetables recipe.

7 Days: Pairing wine with your Thanksgiving meal really is not that difficult.  Usually the turkey is the main focus of the meal and should be the focus for the wine pairing.  It depends on how you prepare your turkey as to what type of wine to drink.  The wine should be able to stand up with the food you eat.  If you have a big flavorful roasted turkey with lots of herbs, then serve a big flavorful wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon.  If you are having a turkey that is just simply roasted, then serve a more fruit-forward style wine like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.  The main thing to remember is to serve a wine that you and your guests enjoy!

8 Days: Stuffing is a staple that goes hand in hand with Thanksgiving and turkey.  And as of late, we have moved away from actually “stuffing” the bird and using a more aromatic approach to add flavor.  That doesn’t mean that your stuffing can’t be delicious and flavorful, you just need to know how to keep it moist and make the necessary changes to keep it that way.  I like to keep a little bit of the drippings from roasting the turkey that I don’t use for the gravy to mix into my stuffing at the last-minute. I’ve also included my recipe for Andouille and Cornbread Stuffing here.

9 Days: One simple way to add and enhance many different holiday pies is with Crème Chantilly (whipped cream).  It’s quick and easy to make and you can avoid the store-bought stuff that is made with oils, high fructose corn syrup and loads of preservatives.  In a mixing bowl, combine 2 C heavy cream, 2 T Sugar and if you want 1 tsp of vanilla and beat on high-speed with a mixer until soft peaks form.  Much better!

10 Days: A simple way to take care of your appetizers for Thanksgiving is to put out a cheese tray. With very little effort you can have a beautiful tray put together in no time and most people will love it.  It is also nice that you don’t need to take up any further oven space.  Pick 2-3 different cheeses and add some nice dried fruits, spreads and crackers to go with it and your all set. Nice work!

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

11 Days: If you grew up not liking Brussels sprouts like a lot of kids, you’re not alone.  I was one of those kids too, but they grew on me as I got older. Now, they are one of the staple vegetables during the fall and winter for our family and even though I like them in many ways, I wanted to share this recipe with you for shaved Brussels sprouts with pancetta and balsamic.  This works well for people who may still not like them or for kids. Enjoy!

12 Days: Mashed potatoes are one of the most served side items at Thanksgiving and are one of my favorites, but they can be bland and boring sometimes.  Try adding things to enhance the flavor or change it up this year.  Roasted garlic, Gruyère cheese or herbs can all make a big improvement to those potatoes that will get along with a wide variety of things!

13 Days: Let your turkey sit uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to help enhance a crispy skin.  If you brine your turkey, do it an extra day ahead (Tuesday) and then remove it from the brine the day before (Wednesday).  This allows the moisture to evaporate which you need to have the skin crisp up for you.  Just make sure it is on a rack set on a tray in the bottom part of your refrigerator to keep it from dripping on the rest of your food!

14 Days: Staying organized while preparing a large meal and hosting family and friends at the same time can be stressful.  You have so much going on throughout the day, how do you stay on track with the food?  Do what professional chefs do, write out a production list.  Be very descriptive about what you have to do so that way if you get sidetracked you can pick up where you left off or if anyone offers to help you can tell them “look at the list”.  This will help the day go so much smoother!

15 Days: Herbs can make a bigger difference in your cooking than most people realize.  Especially when it comes to your Thanksgiving meal. From just adding aroma to your turkey to adding flavor to your side dishes to garnishing for eye appeal, they play a big role.  The following are the four main herbs that I use on Thanksgiving: Sage – aromatic in turkey, gravy or stuffing. Thyme – aromatic in turkey, roasted vegetables, stock. Rosemary – aromatic in turkey, cranberry sauce, dessert. Parsley – stock, topping for potatoes or vegetables.

16 Days: There’s no reason to wait until the last minute to try and cook everything for Thanksgiving.  Start the weekend before or even now to get ahead so that you can focus on family and friends the day of.  Things like pie crust or even some pies and desserts can be made now and frozen. You should already have your stock and bread or cornbread made and in the freezer.  The last few days before Thanksgiving start making things like the cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, cut your potatoes the day before, prep all of your mirepoix that you will need for adding flavor.  Any little bit helps to make your holiday an enjoyable one!

17 Days: Do we really need to discuss cranberry sauce?  I know we all have memories of the jiggly mold in the middle of the table but it’s time to move forward and make your own cranberry sauce.  Such a simple step to make a very flavorful dish.  Try this recipe for Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce instead this year.

18 Days: Instead of the traditional stuffing crammed inside the turkey, try using herbs, vegetables or citrus loosely put in the bird.  This will allow the hot air to circulate through as well and cook the turkey more evenly.  It will also help add flavor as well.  I like using herbs like thyme, rosemary or sage, half a lemon, onion and carrots.  You can always use some of the drippings to for your stuffing later!

19 Days: If you are cooking all the food for your Thanksgiving yourself, it might seem like a daunting task getting all the food to the table piping hot.  Don’t worry about that so much! While your turkey is resting, you can finish the rest of the meal.  You can make your gravy and keep it warm in a thermos and with the 30 minutes you need for the turkey to rest, use the oven to cook or reheat foods you made earlier.  Things like potato puree can be made ahead and kept warm over a bain marie (warm water bath) and cranberry sauce is room temperature along with the roasted vegetables.  Rememeber to relax and enjoy the holiday, your food will taste great

20 Days: What type of stuffing are you making?  Whether it’s cornbread or wheat bread, make it from scratch and avoid the bagged stuff.  Just like your chicken stock, you can make either one now and freeze it.  It will actually be better than if you make it the day of and works better when it’s a little stale.  Just make sure to remove it from the freezer at least a day ahead of time!

21 Days: Make your chicken stock now, portion it out and freeze it for later.  The flavor you get from homemade is so much better than the stuff you buy at the store, and better for you too!  Follow the link for our chicken stock recipe.

How to make your own chicken stock

How to make your own chicken stock